Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that act like testosterone, the male hormone. Bodybuilders and athletes use anabolic steroids to improve their athletic performance, to increase stamina and strength and to grow lean muscle mass. Are there any side effects to using steroids and what are the long term effects of steroids for athletes and bodybuilders?
How Steroids Affect the Body
Anabolic steroids, or anabolic-androgenic steroids, act like the male sex hormone testosterone. Steroids help to build lean muscle mass, and body builders use them to get more “bulk” on the body. Steroids also help body builders and athletes to train with more intensity and manage through longer and longer training sessions without having to take breaks. Body builders usually take steroids in cycles so that a period of taking steroids is followed by a break from the substances. Steroid use comes with side effects. Some are temporary, and some can be permanent. Because steroids act like testosterone in the body, they make the body act as if it is going through puberty. Typical effects include acne, the growth of body hair in men and women, loss of hair on the head (male pattern baldness), the growth of breasts in men, deepening of the voice, and menstrual problems or fertility problems in women. Steroid abuse can also cause impotence, shrinking of the testicles, and decreased sperm count.
People who use steroids can also suffer from mood swings, irritability, restlessness, aggression, and sleeping problems. Body builders and athletes try to avoid harmful side effects by taking breaks from steroid use. There are also more long-term and more serious side effects that can affect some steroid users.
Long Term Side Effects
Anabolic steroids can cause long-term health problems especially when taken in large doses. They can cause elevated blood pressure, heart problems, and even stroke. Long-term steroid use is also linked to liver problems and kidney failure. If you have any symptoms of liver or kidney disease while taking steroids, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Psychological problems that can be caused by long-term use of anabolic steroids include rage, paranoia, and delusions.
When using steroids long-term, the body gets used to the substance. Taking steroids in cycles, followed by a break, is one way of trying to avoid it. Another method is starting the cycle with small doses of steroids, increasing the dose step by step towards the middle of the cycle, and decreasing it again towards the end of the cycle.